There are few musical movie adaptations that are better than “Chicago.” Despite being an incredibly high quality film with both critical and commercial success, it has made many people tougher critics of the stage show because it’s less glamorous. Fortunately, Niagara University Theatre’s sold-out production offers a worthy display of one of John Kander and Fred Ebb’s finest efforts.
. . .a thoroughly entertaining production. . .
The musical is based on a 1926 play by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins about the crimes and criminals she reported on. While focusing on the idea of the “celebrity criminal,” the cast performs vaudeville-style numbers to choreography heavily inspired by Bob Fosse, who choreographed the original production.
The cast’s vocals stand out the most in this production. With many iconic tunes spread out among the leading roles, each one was performed with great conviction, diction and impressive belting.
Cassidy Kreuzer is a star-in-the-making. As Roxie Hart, she’s sassy, sexy and strong, bringing a lot of personality to a rather unlikable and occasionally dumbed down character. Her vocals, delivered through an incredibly animated face, are flawless.
Kayla McSorley carries the the darker role of the leading duo as Velma Kelly. While her vocals are stunning and her acting choices spot-on, her dancing had room for improvement, especially noticeable during the finale in a dance duet with the skilled Kreuzer. Despite that, McSorely delivers an entrancing performance of “All That Jazz” and shines alongside Kreuzer in “My Own Best Friend” and Ember Tate in “Class.”
Tate portrays Matron Mama Morton with intoxicating flair. She’s got a killer voice, showcasing her vocal chops from the moment she enters with a boa made of money in “When You’re Good to Mama.” Charles McGregor also delivers a great performance as the sleazy, selfish defense attorney Billy Flynn. His songs require some powerful notes and McGregor’s voice soared.
Other notable performances were Nicholas Edwards’ heartbreaking, innocent Amos Hart and C. Caso’s impressive Mary Sunshine.
Natalie Slipko’s choreography was well suited to the small stage and the talents of the ensemble, giving an appropriate amount of homage to Fosse without choreographing a carbon copy of the existing production. I especially enjoyed “We Both Reached for the Gun” and “Cell Block Tango” as dance numbers.
The only overwhelming criticism I had with the production is the costuming. While well-constructed and period appropriate, they were boring. Velma and Roxie donned a black and grey printed 20’s style dress in the same style as the ensemble women, whose were plain grey. In keeping with other professional productions, no one changed costumes until the end of the show, but the lack of excitement the outfits gave left me wanting some change. For a show that’s known to be dark and sexy, the simple dresses paired with the pants, shirts, vests and ties worn by the male ensemble left a lot to be desired and felt rather conservative given the choreography and style the show is known for. It’s function was okay for the production, but it feels like there was a missed opportunity here.
Vocally impressive and filled with Fosse, ‘Chicago’ is a thoroughly entertaining production anyone with a ticket is lucky to see. Thanks to a well cast troupe, it offers memorable performances by incredibly promising young talent.
Running time: 2 hours and 25 minutes including one 15-minute intermission.
“Chicago” runs through April 29, 2018 at Niagara University. For more information, click here.